Last week I had the privilege of assisting at an Iraq-Afghanistan Conference of NGO's (Non-governmental Organizations) and meeting almost two dozen wonderful persons involved in making life better in the war ravaged lands of Iraq and Afghanistan.
The conference organizer, a friend from church, asked me if I was willing to assist in a few tasks such as picking up and taking attendees to and from airports, taking notes, operating the computer/projector, and setting up a Skype call. I told Rick that in a former life I'd been an executive secretary, and administrative assistant so I figured I could handle whatever he needed.
I missed the opening session of the conference on Tuesday while picking up that night's keynote speaker at the airport in Des Moines. Cindy Fogelman and I had a wonderful conversation on the drive back (over an hour). We arrived back at the Danish Immigrant Museum at the end of the introductions, followed by a delicious lunch at the Danish Inn in Elk Horn, Iowa. The afternoon session was time for each representative to introduce his/her organization. This is when I helped with the computer/projector for the PowerPoint presentations.
Dinner was held at a renovated livestock sale barn in Kimballton, Iowa, catered again by Danish Inn. Cindy told the story of her organization's involvement in caring for orphans and street children in Baghdad with a captivating slide show.
Wednesday's morning session included two speakers, the first, Jan Bradley on Sustainability, and then Julie Mierau (former Director of Entrepreneurship at Iowa Western Community College) on Innovation. After a really tasty lunch from Vittles, in Elk Horn, the participants decided to move forward with the breakout sessions planned for Thursday morning. I took notes for the Iraq group.
That night at the Cottonwood Barn we enjoyed another great meal from Vittles and heard Charlotte (Charlie) Ponticelli talk about her experiences working with women's issues in Afghanistan while at the State Department during the Bush Administration.
Thursday morning was a review and wrap-up session. I had to leave early to take Charlie and Allison, another participant from the Denver/Baghdad Partnership, to the airport in Omaha. When I returned to the Museum, everyone was gone except my friend Rick.
I thoroughly enjoyed being with these intelligent, educated, passionate people! My mind came alive and my heart was touched. I hadn't even realized how "dehydrated" I was, but I soaked up the conversation and camaraderie like the proverbial sponge. At each session and meal I sat with someone different so I could get to know as many as possible. At one session Ann Geiger from Sister Cities International was reaching for her bag to retrieve something and I stood up and got it for her. She said "I'm capable." I said, :"I know, but I'm the assistant so I endeavor to assist." We had a good laugh!
Many thanks to the participants: Linda Egle of Eternal Threads, Ginna Brelsford of Ayni Education International, Don McKay of Iraqi Hope Foundation, John and Jan Bradley of The Lamia Afghan Foundation, and Marshall Plan Charities; Mary Baumgarten from Food for Kidz, Ann Geiger, Sister Cities International, Lee McManus representing Council Bluffs, Iowa local sister city; Allison Sharp, representing the Denver Baghdad Regional Partnership for Peace; Adam De Jong from Dwell Earth, Monty Simus from The Bayat Foundation, Cindy Fogelman of The Sponsor Iraqi Children Foundation, as well as Charlie Ponticelli; Ken Choquette; Steve and Randi Nelson from Nathan Hale Middle School; Troy Muller, Pat Crossly and Dr. Scott Smith from New Century Art Guild; and Aseya, college student from Afghanistan (forgive my spelling, I never saw it written).
Thank you Rick for asking me to participate, we can fight over who got the most out of it, but I know I'll win. This was truly a saw sharpening experience for me.